Parenting Perspectives: A 1970s summer is within reach
This is my first summer at home full-time with my school aged children, and so far, I’m loving it more than I even imagined.
True, we’ve tackled hardly any of the projects or schedules I envisioned back in May. The piano has sat untouched. We never made that list of art projects or the family trip to the craft store to get our supplies. Homemade popsicles have touched our lips once, and they were deemed far less preferable to the ones from Costco.
I left the spring with plans for a more structured summer mostly out of fear that I would need to entertain my boys, ages 5 and 7. I dreaded hearing “I’m bored!” and endless pleas to watch TV, so I wanted to plan ahead with rainy day activities and a semblance of structure. “We’ll have so much time together!” I thought, “It’s going to be magical.”
The truth is, it has been magical, but not for the reasons I thought. Partly this is due to the weather, and I’ve sent up my prayers of gratitude for the multitude of sunshiny days we’ve experienced since Memorial Day. But mostly, it’s because my boys have gotten to enjoy one of my other childhood dreams: neighborhood friends.
From the moment they wake at 7 a.m., these boys are dressed and out the door to get on their bikes. (They understand helmets are mandatory, but apparently still think teeth brushing is optional. Priorities.) They eat as many meals outside as possible, from breakfast to dinner. (I’m glad I stocked up on paper plates and plastic silverware that first week.) They are across the street knocking on the neighbor’s door to see if the boys can come out and play, and the days are filled with shouts and giggles as the four of them climb trees, play Star Wars, ride endless loops around the block, organize backyard baseball games, and find countless excuses to splash each other in the kiddie pool.
They have legs covered in scrapes and bruises and arms in mosquito bite scars. Their skin has turned a shade of bronze that reminds me of my own childhood days in the sun. I have never seen feet so dirty; shoes only make an appearance when we leave the house, and only then if the destination requires it.
We have done swimming lessons, trips to the library, and weekly baseball and soccer games. We’ve done impromptu pizza at Island Park and celebratory ice cream cones for graduating out of training wheels. Daily popsicle treats abound (once I got my three-year-old to stop stealing them from the freezer). There have been movie nights with popcorn, s’mores at the lake, tents in the backyard, and of course a few scheduled appointments and meetings so Mama can get a little work done.
But what has amazed me the most is how little boredom has reared its annoying head. There have been moments here and there when I can see that everyone is in a funk, but even on rainy days, the desire to be outside has overruled most everything else (even the typically endless begging for snacks).
It’s been an idyllic summertime experience. It has brought me joy and even made me love my children more, to see them running and laughing and enjoying the simplicity of childhood. When I see the viral posts saying how we need to “give our kids a 1970′s summer” again, I just shake my head. Regardless of the decade, everything we need for a perfect summer is within us. And maybe within our mother’s freezer.
In a book I was recently reading, the author referenced a Facebook post that was going around a few years ago. In it, Facebook users were prompted to share a list of (somewhat random) things about themselves. Things their closest online friends might not know about them, but maybe should.
The author used it as an opportunity to pull back the facade on her life and be vulnerable with experiences from her past, feelings in her present, and fears of her future that most people didn’t realize about her. It resonated with all who read it, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
It occurred to me that I could make a list for my children. 15 Things I Want My Kids to Know About Me.
When I am laughing with my daughter on the floor as she pretends I’m her baby, watching the joy unfold on my middle son’s face as I “fly” him on my feet, or feeling the comfort of my oldest son’s arms around me at bedtime, sometimes my mind will think, “I should take a picture of this.”
Kids are kids, and adults in a community should be looking out for each other, not just looking out for Number One.
Instead, we don’t know our neighbors, they don’t know our kids, and helicopter parenting is now the expected norm. If you dare to let your child play on his own without being within a five-foot distance to supervise, you risk losing your children permanently.
Just ask the parents in Florida who were arrested and children taken away when their 11-year-old son played basketball by himself in their front yard for over an hour. In April 2015, he arrived home before his parents, who were stuck in traffic. So he ate his snack, grabbed a ball, and started shooting hoops. A neighbor called the police and the parents were arrested, in front of their children, for neglect.